Whether the Sun goes round the Earth, or the Earth goes round the Sun, wasn’t the issue. At least, it wasn’t to start with. Ask Copernicus, that mediaeval Pole, and a man of broad learning not only in mathematics and astronomy, but in classics and the humanities; a Latinist of sublime style, and a polyglot, fluent in five other languages; doctor of Canon Law; diplomat, mediator, statesman; defender of traditional civic freedoms against the empire-building Teutonic order; economist, even monetarist, and pioneer of Gresham’s Law; student of medicine, too; Chapter Canon (for which he surely had to be ordained); diligent guardian to his sister’s orphaned children; and more that we might list, were this morning’s Idlepost about Copernicus. (There are books on him, though none I’ve seen that give justice to his range, or his depth; most only celebrate the poster-boy of heliocentrism.)

I have asked Copernicus what his motives were, in pursuing the extraordinary work behind his famous and little read treatise, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Listen as he answers: “To clean up the Ptolemaic mathematics, which gave inexact accounts of the movements of moon, planets, stars.”

The heliocentric inversion was not original: Aristarchus of Samos had preached that eighteen centuries before, and we merely assume the conception was original to him. Copernicus the scholar was well acquainted with the Greek authors, both Ancient and Byzantine. Claudius Ptolemy had himself reversed Aristarchus, adding an astrological flavouring, in late decadent Alexandria.

So much of science, properly so called, consists of housecleaning. Things are discovered in the course of that, including, as in this case, things that had gone missing a long time ago. The astrological, or dare I say “gnostic” mind, is forever hiding things, that disappear under the dust of the centuries.

Science as a whole was receding, in Ptolemy’s time, from its earlier Hellenic splendour. The Romans, with their engineering or technological bias, had no taste for it. They preferred “settled science” with its rules of thumb. They were practical people, like our computer technicians today.

Indeed, we are descending into another dark age of “settled science,” whose adepts dress in labcoat robes, claim a priestly monopoly on scientific reasoning, and are applauded chiefly for the gizmos they assemble. It has become a parody religion, for the god and doctrine of material Progress; a return, on this circuit, to the pagan Roman condition. Of course, we know how that ends.

Now, a practical man, with two feet on the ground, can see that the Sun circles the Earth, as too, the great bowl of stars. He never thought that the world is flat (a ridiculous smear circulated by the Darwinists), because he has seen the sea, and ships’ masts sinking below the horizon, then rising again as they return. And besides, the heavens themselves are revolving; it makes no sense for them to revolve around an anchored disk. Ours must be the round stone at the lowest point of this celestial machinery, tiny in comparison to the stars’ vast distance. (Mediaeval man, as the Ancients, had no doubt that the stars were very far away.) There can be no point lower than the centre of our globe, deep underground, towards which we are mysteriously, we might say hellishly pulled, as everything in our sublunary sphere. Yet there are men on the surface of our planet, greatly in need of salvation, and that is where its significance lies.

Things move back and forth; around and around; nothing ever changes. In the cosmology of our modern “scientific” age, now passing, we began to glimpse how the Earth and its inhabitants remain central to the overall scheme. Our uniqueness requires the adumbration of the entire universe to comprehend — having completed which, we are then no closer to God.

A man like Copernicus could understand this. Those who shout “Copernicus!” cannot.